Descended from the Fuentes family, who were Jews in Spain that were forced to convert during the Inquisition, Leonel Chevez was born in El Salvador. The route that led his ancestors there was fraught with danger. During the Inquisition, part of his family converted to Catholicism in Spain and many fled to Istanbul. Later, to escape the inquisition they fled to Lima, Peru. When the fires of the Inquisition followed them to the New World, they traveled by boat to eastern El Salvador, where the indigenous Lenca people gave them refuge.